Surviving Disney: 10 Ways to Spend Less and Beat the Crowds

Walt Disney World [Orlando, Florida]

Despite its over-the-top prices and frequently crowded parks, Disney World has remained a rite of passage in America and a favorite childhood memory for many. If you’re looking to plan a trip this year, there’s more ways than ever to save money, time and, most importantly, your sanity. Here, 10 ways to still make Disney the Happiest Place on Earth:

Get a FastPass. When it comes to cutting the line at popular rides like Space Mountain and Soarin’, a FastPass is a Disney must. This free service, which you can find at park kiosks, allows you to reserve a time slot at a ride. Show up at the designated hour and skip the standby line. 

Get tech savvy.  Download apps such as MouseWait and Mobile Magic (both free) to give you a heads up on ride wait times. For $14.95, consider purchasing RideMax, which will customize a personalized itinerary for you along with suggesting the best time to visit certain rides. 

Go early or go late. Most parks open at 9 a.m. and stay open as late as 11 p.m. (and as late as 2 a.m. if you’re part of the Magic Kingdom Club). If visiting with kids, staying up late to hit up popular rides and attractions might not be an option, so plan to get to the parks even before they open. The first hour of the day is always the least busy.

Visit in the off-season. For lower rates and fewer crowds, plan your visit in the off-season months of mid-September to mid-November, as well as January. Visiting during the weekdays will also help beat the crowds.

Have a plan. In Disney World, having a pre-determined plan will save you precious time and energy. Instead of arguing with your spouse over directions or where to go next, you’ll simply progress to the next ride or know when to take a much-needed ice cream break.

Ask directly about special rates at booking. In general, special rates should be advertised if booking online, but if calling in your reservations, do ask for available discounts and extra perks. If staying at a Disney-operated accommodation, inquire about coupons or other ways to save at check-in. 

Visit free attractions. A one-day ticket to Epcot and the Magic Kingdom is as much as $99/person and while ticket rates will diminish the longer you stay, rates are still pricey. As such, take advantage of Disney’s free attractions. Anyone can visit Downtown Disney or the Boardwalk, ride the monorail over Epcot or watch the nightly Electrical Water Pageant on Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.

Check out online coupons and resources. After scouting out Disney’s official site for special promotions, be sure to check out other sites for comprehensive listings of deals and coupons. 

Request an Orlando Magicard. This free discount card available through the Orlando and Orange County Visitors Bureau can save you as much as $50 a night on accommodation and also includes discounts on car rentals. 

Consider packaged deals carefully. At first glance, special package rates, like a Disney Dining Plan or on-site accommodation with tickets included, can appear to be good value. However, be sure to compare rates and consider details like “how much will I actually eat?” Oftentimes, booking your own accommodation with tickets separately is more cost effective.  

Looking for more kid-friendly travel inspiration? Check out the 10 Most Important Places in America to Take Your Kids


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